WA I-502 - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When can adults legally possess and use marijuana?
A: As of December 6, 2012, adults age 21 and over in Washington state can no longer be arrested
under state law for possessing limited amounts of marijuana.

Q: How much marijuana can adults legally possess under I legally possess under I-502?
A: Under Washington law, adults can possess 1 oz. of useable marijuana, 16 oz. of marijuana infused product in solid form, and 72 oz. of marijuana infused product in liquid form.

Q: Can I grow marijuana at home?
A: No. Unless you are an authorized medical marijuana patient under Washington law, home growing is not allowed.

Q: When can marijuana retail outlets sell marijuana?
A: The Washington State Liquor Control Board, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health will have until December 1, 2013 to complete rule-making that will create a system to license and regulate the production, processing, and sale of marijuana. Commercial businesses can be set up after rule-making is complete and once a license is obtained.

Q: Where will stores be located?
A: Licenses will authorize stand-alone marijuana businesses, with similar restrictions to the old state liquor stores. Marijuana stores must be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools and parks. The number of marijuana store licenses will also be determined in rule-making.

Q: Does I--502 change Washington’s medical marijuana law?
A: No. Washington’s Medical Use of Cannabis Act remains unchanged.

Q: Can marijuana be used in public?
A: It will remain unlawful under Washington law to use marijuana in public. Similar to a traffic offense, violations will result in a civil infraction bringing a fine but not arrest.

Q: Can a prospective employee still be drug tested for marijuana when applying for a job?
A: I-502 does not change Washington state employment law, which allows for employment drug testing in some situations.

Q: How do the DUI provisions work under I-502?
A: I-502 creates a standard for marijuana impairment while driving, similar to the .08 cut-off for alcohol. The DUI provisions focus on active THC in one’s system that can impair a driver and not inactive marijuana metabolites that do not cause impairment. As is currently the law, an officer will need to have probable cause for an arrest and reasonable grounds to believe a driver is impaired before requiring a breath or blood test. Nor does it change the fact that blood tests can only be administered by medical professionals.

Q: How will the federal government respond to I-502?
A: Proponents of the new law look forward to working with federal officials in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that it is fairly implemented. The law’s tightly regulated system will improve public safety and increase respect for law enforcement. We [WA-ACLU] hope that federal officials will respect the will of our state’s voters and not enforce federal laws against Washington residents who are obeying state law.

Q: When does I-502 take effect?
A: Here is a summary of important dates for implementation of I-502:

::: December 6th 2012: Initiative 502 goes into effect. :::
On this date it will be legal for adults 21 and over to possess limited amounts of marijuana under Washington law. I-502’s Driving Under the Influence provisions will also take effect.

::: December 1st, 2013: Rule-making Must Be Completed. :::
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health must conduct rule-making as specified by I-502 to set up a system to license and regulate the production, processing, and sale of marijuana. No commercial business can be set up until rule-making is complete and licenses are obtained.

::: September 1st, 2015: Evaluation :::
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy must provide legislature with a preliminary evaluation and recommendations regarding the cost-benefit outcomes of I-502. Additional evaluations will be produced in 2017, 2022, and 2032.

::: TBD: Tax Rate Adjustment Recommendations :::
The Washington State Liquor Control Board shall review I-502 tax levels and make recommendations to the legislature regarding adjustments that would further the goal of discouraging use while undercutting illegal market prices.


::: This section is from Seattle PD on November 9th :::

The people have spoken. Voters have passed Initiative 502 and beginning December 6th, state law no longer prohibits production and sale of marijuana. Under state law adults over 21 years old may possess up to an ounce of marijuana (or 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused product, like cookies, or 72 ounces of infused liquid, like oil) for personal use.
Marijuana has existed in a grey area in Seattle for some time now. Despite a longstanding national prohibition on marijuana, minor marijuana possession has been the lowest enforcement priority for the Seattle Police Department since Seattle voters passed Initiative 75 in 2003. Officers don’t like grey areas in the law. I-502 now gives them more clarity.
Marijuana legalization creates some challenges for the Seattle Police Department, but SPD is already working to respond to these issues head on, by doing things like reviewing SPD’s hiring practices for police officers to address now-legal marijuana usage by prospective officers, as well as current employees.
While I-502 has decriminalized marijuana possession in Washington, the new state law is in direct conflict with federal law, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. All Seattle Police officers have taken an oath to uphold not only state law, but federal law as well. However, SPD officers will follow state law, and will no longer make arrests for marijuana possession as defined under I-502.
The Seattle Police Department and Mayor Mike McGinn have already begun working with state officials to navigate this conflict, and follow the direction of Washington voters to legalize marijuana.
In the meantime, the Seattle Police Department will continue to enforce unlicensed sale or production of marijuana, and regulations against driving under the influence of marijuana, which remain illegal.

Here’s a practical guide for what the Seattle Police Department believes I-502 means for you, beginning December 6th, based on the department’s current understanding of the initiative Please keep in mind that this is all subject to review and revision by the state attorney general and King County Prosecutor’s office and it describes the policies of the Seattle Police Department only. All marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law, and Seattle Police cannot predict or control the enforcement activities of federal authorities.

Q: Can I legally carry around an ounce of marijuana?
A: According to the recently passed initiative, beginning December 6th, adults over the age of 21 will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Please note that the initiative says it “is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana…in view of the general public,” so there’s that. Also, you probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).

Q: Well, where can I legally buy pot, then?
A: The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working to establish guidelines for the sale and distribution of marijuana. The WSLCB has until December 1, 2013 to finalize those rules.

Q: Can I grow marijuana in my home and sell it to my friends, family, and co-workers?
A: Under state law, as long as you’re a licensed grower and seller, yes. If you’re a medical marijuana patient, the rules on growing haven’t changed.

Q: Can I smoke pot outside my home? Like at a park, magic show, or the Bite of Seattle?
A: Much like having an open container of alcohol in public, doing so could result in a civil infraction—like a ticket—but not arrest. You can certainly use marijuana in the privacy of your own home. Additionally, if smoking a cigarette isn’t allowed where you are (say, inside an apartment building or flammable chemical factory), smoking marijuana isn’t allowed there either.

Q: Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
A: As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue.

Q: If I apply for a job at the Seattle Police Department, will past (or current) marijuana use be held against me?
A: The current standard for applicants is that they have not used marijuana in the previous three years. In light of I-502, the department is consulting with the city’s employment law division and the state attorney general to see if and how that standard may be revised.

Q: What happens if I get pulled over and an officer thinks I’ve been smoking pot?
A: If an officer believes you’re driving under the influence of anything, they will conduct a field sobriety test and may consult with a drug recognition expert. If officers establish probable cause, they will bring you to a precinct and ask your permission to draw your blood for testing. If officers have reason to believe you’re under the influence of something, they can get a warrant for a blood draw from a judge. If you’re in a serious accident, then a blood draw will be mandatory.

Q: What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk?
A: Under state law, officers have to develop probable cause to search a closed or locked container. Each case stands on its own, but the smell of pot alone will not be reason to search a vehicle. If officers have information that you’re trafficking, producing or delivering marijuana in violation of state law, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.

Q: SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
A: No.

Q: Will SPD assist federal law enforcement in investigations of marijuana users or marijuana-related businesses, which are legal, at the state level, under I-502?
A: No. Officers and detectives will not participate in an investigation of anything that’s allowed by state law.

Q: December 6th seems like a really long ways away. What happens if I get caught with marijuana before then?
A: Hold your breath. Your case will be processed under current state statute. However, there is already a city statute making marijuana enforcement the lowest law enforcement priority.

Q: I’m under 21. What happens if I get caught smoking pot?
A: It’s a violation of state law. It’ll be referred to prosecutors, just like if you were a minor in possession of alcohol. But, again, marijuana enforcement is still the lowest law enforcement priority in Seattle. This is all still under review and we’re still awaiting advisement from the state attorney general.